While driving up here to Naples, Maine for some seaplane training I listened to a lecture on political theory by Dennis Dalton, a professor at Barnard. One interesting point was that Aristotle did not approve of voting except by middle-class or richer people. His theory was that a poor person is likely to be illiterate and that, without having much property, won’t have any stake in stability. Thus if Aristotle were remaking Iraq only perhaps 10 percent of the population would be entitled to vote. In the U.S. maybe 80 percent of us would get to vote (though of course only 40-some percent bother).
Dalton talked about how the U.S. illustrates all of the ills of Capitalism predicted by Karl Marx. In particular Dalton cited the percentage of children living in poverty here in the U.S. (“living in poverty” means in a family whose income is less than the Federal Poverty Level, a number determined by trying to figure out what the minimum necessary income is for a normal American life).
If the quantity of children in the U.S. were fixed it seems obvious that the higher the percentage of kids living in poverty the worse the situation. But the quantity of children is not fixed. People decide to have an extra child based on their perception of how easy it will be to take care of an extra child. Perhaps a high percentage of children living in poverty means that poor people feel comfortable with (a) the level of government support to be expected for that child (e.g., Medicaid, AFDC), and (b) the ultimate career prospects for that child once grown up.
What would stop a Reagan-style optimist from saying “look at all the children that our poor people are having, confident that their future will be bright” and citing that as an example of what a fantastic country this is for a poor family?